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Failed Missions

July 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

*** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***

Today seemed to be a series of failed missions. I'm not usually one for ticking off a long list of guide book recommendations, but I thought I'd seek out a museum as a way to get under the skin of this country. I haven't pored over the history section in the guide book, so I don't have a solid grounding yet...I usually like to discover all of this along the way. So the first recommendation from the trusty Lonely Planet (LP) is the War Remnants Museum. It's not too far from where I'm staying so I head off on foot despite the soaring humidity. I smile, shake my head and say 'no thank you' to the several cyclo and motorbike taxis I pass and casually make my way. {They're all really nice...so easy to say 'no' and continue on...no hassle at all, which is not at all what I had read about}. I know I've arrived by the tanks and other heavy artillery stuff parked at the front...all painted black. And then I hesitated. I know this museum is all about the American War and the flip side of the story we know...but I really don't want to read about or see the horrors. War is ugly and this isn't a set of memories I want to have in my head, so I go back to the list and opt for the History Museum located in the Botanical Gardens. So off I set on Mission #2. It doesn't look too far on the map, and I get to see the city from the ground as I meander...and stop and take pictures along the way of course :)

Have I mentioned the humidity?! Thankfully this town has human refuelling stations every 5 metres (there are a lot of mouths to feed...approx 12 million of them...plus tourists)...and I'm forever thankful to the bright person who (1) created the super sized refresher towel in a packet (they're napkin-sized here), and (2) for putting them in the fridge to serve them chilled. Just genius! And I also like the chilled glass of green tea that's served instantly and gratis as soon as you sit down. It's a perfect reviver. These people certainly know how to cope with their tropical weather...right down to the dishes they put under the glasses to capture the condensation. I can't believe these aren't used anywhere else I've been...it solves the issues of big watery puddles on the table. I blame it on the humidity, but these little dishes made me think that my Birkenstocks were performing the same function for me today...my body was definitely having a condensation issue! Anyway...I digress...

I arrive at the History Museum only to discover it's closed on Mondays. Thanks LP...you didn't mention that and you're usually pretty good at mentioning the timings. So...it's the middle of the day by now and I thought a reprieve in the shade of the gardens would be nice. Unfortunately it's also the zoo, and the two are intermingled, so I walk through the gates prepared for a different kind of horror and sadness than what the War Remnants Museum would have delivered. I didn't stay too long...small cages, concrete floors...yada yada...I'm sure you can imagine that it wasn't the best environment for animals. (The only Asian zoo worth going to {in my opinion} is the Singapore Zoo. They do a great job at creating semi-natural spaces for their animals). It was worth popping in though to discover Mr Safari Hat. Fantastic!...where do you get one of these? And the elephant seemed to be impressed with it too!

So...I'm up to failed Mission #2...plus the zoo as an add-on failure. Let's go eat! I should have just picked the first place I came to, but I liked the sound of the best Banh Xeo in town...and it didn't seem too far away {have I mentioned the humidity?!}. It turns out to be a market and I couldn't see anyone advertising Banh Xeo {maybe they don't sell them on Mondays!}...so I had my first Pho of the trip instead. This is a noodle soup with meat and vegetables and is standard Vietnamese fare. It's pronounced 'fir' by the way...I really have no hope for understanding this language!

Ok...I need another mission. Back to the map and I circle the Women's Museum. It doesn't get a mention in the guidebook so I'm hoping to find a hidden gem...and it didn't seem that far (except I took a wrong turn and had to do some back-tracking...and then there's the humidity!). I get there and it looks promising. It's open at least! And the beautiful images on the fence of Vietnamese women are inspiring and I hope I get to take pictures like that on this trip. Once I got inside it was clear it was failed Mission #3. The first floor was about the clothing, silk making and mat weaving (a little dull...but ok), then the next floor was about the political prisoners and heroines during the American War (seems I couldn't escape it today), and Floor 3 was celebrating female achievers in other disciplines such as sport and science...and also the French War. Why wasn't there more of the beautiful photography they promised outside? Oh..and my camera battery died..and I didn't pack the spare...but I'll save that for another post :)

Three strikes (plus a couple of add-ons) and I head for home...then the heavens upon up to relieve me from the humidity at last...and I'm now a different kind of wet. I thought I was prepared by packing an umbrella, but packing a waterproof one would have been better. My tea-strainer perfectly turned big tropical rain drops into fine mist...perfectly useless! With overflowing Birkenstocks I ducked for cover in a dry human refuelling station and watched the tropical storm unleash...and the crazy locals race home on their scooters....with a huge smile on my face. This place is great!

I think the guidebook may get a day of rest tomorrow...playing tourist doesn't seem to be working for me :)

Goodnight Vietnam.


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